Doctor Who – Is Big Finish Canon?

The idea of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who is a unique one, most notably because of how fans of the show interpret the idea differently to that of other shows. In the conventional sense, a franchise’s ‘Canon’ is the established set of works that are a part of the ‘official’ story or universe of that franchise. Normally franchises headed by a single writer will have a strict set of rules as to what is considered ‘Canon’, examples being the Harry Potter universe and the Lord of the Rings series, which both have installments either written or partially written by other authors, meaning that their ‘Canon’ status is debated among fans. Other franchises have experienced controversial alterations to the established ‘Canon’, either via the introduction of alternate universes as in Transformers or Marvel, or a complete behind-the-scenes upheaval of the timeline, such as what Disney did to Star Wars.

‘Canon’ in Doctor Who, however, has a slightly different twist to it – since the show deals with the concept of time travel, paradoxes, re-writing history and alternate universes on a weekly basis, it is a generally established fact within the Doctor who fan community that, as time can be rewritten, anything and everything written or produced for Doctor Who has the potential to be ‘Canon’ in the sense that they once happened, but were overwritten within the show’s history – examples of this include the original Dalek origin story with the Dals and the infamous ‘Dimensions in Time’ Children in Need Special. This essentially opens the floodgates and renders the concept of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who obsolete, since even within the televised show itself there have been instances of the events of certain episodes being wiped from the timeline. Even so, the debate over whether productions created by companies that the BBC licences to create Doctor Who media should be considered ‘Canon’, most notably, the Big Finish Audio Series.

Since their inception, the Big Finish Audios have attempted to fill narrative gaps or exploit untapped potential from the Classic Series, and this is one of the biggest draws to the series for Classic Who fans who yearn for more episodes from their favourite Classic Doctors. There are instances of the timelines of specific Doctors relying heavily on the Big Finish audios, such as the Sixth and Eighth Doctors, and without those audios in the ‘Canon’ these Doctors would have incomplete tenures. As Big Finish’s range of audios grows, their influence on the established timeline of Doctor Who grows also – a clear example of this is their release of The Brink of Death, which is the Sixth Doctor’s official regeneration story. The same phenomenon is true of the more recent Big Finish productions related to the revived series, such as the new U.N.I.T. series and the Time War series, and the fact that the BBC has granted Big Finish the rights to the New Series as well as the rights to use the new logo and branding suggests that they have been firmly entrenched in ‘Canon’ status.

Nevertheless, for the many fans who have not experienced the Big Finish audios, they seem more like optional extras than an essential part of the Doctor Who timeline, and it all really boils down to personal experience and opinion. But in many ways, that is what is so great about Doctor Who’s ‘Canon’ – it is entirely personal to one’s experiences with the show and its associated media. Those who grew up reading the Doctor Who books are far more likely to consider them to be as ‘Canon’ as the televised series itself, particularly since many of the Doctor Who books are superb, and yet those who have not read the books can still get full enjoyment out of the show and the audios, and so on. This is indicative of the flexible and accessible nature of Doctor Who as a series – although the sheer mass of televised episodes, audios, books and other associated media can seem daunting, the show can actually be accessed quite easily across its many eras and formats thanks to the diverse range of stand-alone stories.

And finally, should the matter of ‘Canon’ really impact ones enjoyment of a piece of media? After all, the recent decision by Disney to rebrand the Star Wars Expanded Universe as the ‘non-Canon’ Legends series may have caused controversy among the fanbase, but that is only because they loved those stories so much – yet the stories themselves are still there, and can still be enjoyed just as easily whether they are ‘Canon’ or not. In answer to the overall question of whether the Big Finish Audios are canon or not, there is realistically only one answer – yes. The BBC has accepted Big Finish’s continuity with open arms, even giving them the rights to almost all of the characters in the revival including the Tenth Doctor, Rose, Donna, Osgood and the War Doctor, and Big Finish is slowly beginning to influence the main show too – the Eighth Doctor recites all of his Big Finish companions in the 50th Anniversary minisode The Night of the Doctor. But ultimately, the question of ‘Canon’ in Doctor Who is an irrelevant one, particularly given the temporal or ‘timey-wimey’ nature of the show, and Doctor Who fans should simply enjoy the vast array of visual and audio media available to us.

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Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho Finales

Due to the change in the format of Doctor Who between the Classic Series and NuWho, a lot more emphasis is placed on the ‘Series Finale’, i.e. the final episode of a series, usually a two-parter, that often involves big shakeups or changes in the status quo for the show. These include, but are not limited to: regenerations, the death or departure of the current companion, big plot reveals or appearances by well-known recurring villains. Since these episodes are so important to their respective seasons, it seems only fair to rank these episodes against each other to see which is the best. It must be noted that I am ranking these episodes based on their quality but also their effectiveness at tying up the plot elements of the series they conclude, so it may not simply be the case of the better episodes being higher. So, to begin:

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10 – Hell Bent

Perhaps a predictable choice as there is no shortage of hate for this episode within the fandom, Hell Bent is a classic example of wasted potential. Regardless of any personal feelings towards the episode (which I actually feel is a lot better than many give it credit for) Hell Bent comes bottom of this list because it fails almost all of its tasks to round off Series 9. What was the Hybrid? Hell Bent tries to give us an answer – but ultimately it boils down to Moffat using the Hybrid as a buzzword throughout the series to make people think there was an arc, only for the curtain to be pulled back at the end to reveal… nothing. This episode is also hurt by its context – following on from the mighty Heaven Sent, Hell Bent just seems weak by comparison and lacks the emotional impact that the previous story had. Not only that, but Hell Bent also includes some highly questionable writing decisions – why bring the Doctor back to Gallifrey if by this point he doesn’t even seem to care about it? Why waste the amazing departure of Clara in Face the Raven only for her to come back to life here? Why have the Doctor shoot a man in cold blood, even if by this point he has gone insane? Clearly, Hell Bent raises more questions than it answers, which is never a good thing for a finale.

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9 – Journey’s End

Speaking of wasted potential, here is another classic example of a finale episode that is vastly inferior to its predecessor. Unlike Hell Bent, Journey’s End is actually praised by the majority of the fanbase (probably because it is a Tennant episode) but what most people fail to realise is that the episode didn’t deliver anywhere near what the fanbase deserved, and we know this because the previous episode, The Stolen Earth, was basically perfect. I mentioned in my How to Fix article on this finale that one of the main reasons why Journey’s End seems lackluster is that it takes what The Stolen Earth set up and throws it all away – All of the cliffhangers that were set up are resolved almost immediately with little effort, The Daleks were a real threat in The Stolen Earth but by Journey’s End they are reduced to being spun around like malfunctioning dodgems, and Davros lacks all the subtlety to his character that Russell had written in The Stolen Earth, instead appearing as a ranting raving lunatic who cackles like Emperor Palpatine. Another major thing that hurts this episode is all the stakes from the previous one are gone. Did anyone actually think the Doctor would regenerate, or that the TARDIS would be destroyed? Of course not. And to top it all off, the Tenth Doctor shows his true colours by using his mind powers to wipe Donna’s memory against her will, even though she had his intelligence and so should have been able to make the decision to live or die herself. Overall, Journey’s End disgraces the Daleks, Davros, the Doctor and the show all in one, but it definitely gains points for having the most returning companions in a single episode, including Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Captain Jack, as well as crossing over into the spinoff shows The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood.

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8 – The Wedding of River Song

It has to be said that, for all this episode’s faults, it does actually deliver a plot resolution that was satisfying and added to River’s arc. Since we had already found out in A Good Man Goes To War that River was Amy and Rory’s child, it was unexpected that we would get another big reveal about her character so soon, but the reveal that she is the Doctor’s wife rounded off an arc that had been started all the way back in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. In typical fashion for Eleventh Doctor finales, the entire episode takes place in a strange alternate universe, but this doesn’t necessarily hurt the episode in any way as it allows for some really interesting and satisfying concepts to play out – for one, Amy brutally murders Madame Kovarian, a villain I despised, so that definitely works in this episode’s favor – also, the idea of Amy and Rory falling in love even when they have only just met seems strange at first but actually works really well in the episode. Overall, whilst not a particularly strong episode, The Wedding of River Song definitely delivers as a finale, although it is not among the best.

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7 – The Name of the Doctor

With the 50th Anniversary on the horizon, The Name of the Doctor had more to do than other NuWho finales – it had to not only conclude the Series in a way that was satisfying, but it also had the task of setting up The Day of the Doctor, which was no small feat. Overall, it succeeds at both tasks in some ways, as it does provide a conclusive answer to who Clara Oswald is an why she is important, whilst also giving us a great reveal of the War Doctor, which came as a huge surprise. Not only that, but it even manages to set up the Doctor’s regeneration in The Time of the Doctor by giving us a look at the planet ‘Trenzalore’, alleged to be the Doctor’s grave. The Name of the Doctor also brought back the Great Intelligence, a relatively minor Second Doctor enemy who (for some reason) got special attention as a returning villain in the Eleventh Doctor’s era despite Moffat claiming that ‘forgettable’ villains like the Rani don’t deserve a comeback. Seriously, Moffat? But I digress – The Name of the Doctor, like The Wedding of River Song, is definitely not one of my favourite episodes of NuWho, but as a finale it serves its purpose whilst also setting up the 50th Anniversary special effectively.

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6 – Last of the Time Lords

This episode can be summed up in one word – strange. Concluding the three-part ‘Master Trilogy’ containing Utopia and The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords does a great job of showing just how much of a threat the Master can be when he puts his mind to conquering the world. For all the faults in the characterisation of the ‘Saxon’ Master that is not consistent with his appearance in the Classic Series, he is a formidable foe in this episode and the stakes are really high, and the twist at the end and how the Master achieves his ‘victory’ came as a genuine surprise to a lot of fans who expected the character to pull a classic ‘I’ll get you next time’ and somehow escape. Whilst the ‘time-reversal’ technique is about as sloppy as the writing gets on Doctor Who, in this episode it is somewhat justified and set up from the very beginning, making it forgivable – although the final scenes that cross Return of the Jedi with Flash Gordon have not aged well at all, particularly given the Master’s lackluster return in The End of Time. One of the best things about Last of the Time Lords is Martha, who really shines in this episode, proving her worth as a companion and essentially saving the Doctor, her family, the planet and all of human history, as well as being the only Tennant-era companion to depart the show with a shred of dignity.

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5 – Doomsday

Children of the nation were ecstatic at the prospect of an episode featuring a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen in the run-up to this episode, and generally on that front it didn’t disappoint – Doomsday delivers quite an action-packed episode considering the BBC budget, and the episode delivers a heavy-hitting emotional ending that keeps Tennant fans weeping to this very day. The only thing that brings Doomsday down is the sloppy focus – the episode had so much going on: Torchwood, the Cult of Skaro, Cybermen, Jackie and Pete’s relationship and Mickey and Jake coming back – all whilst trying to deliver the Doctor and Rose’s final adventure together. Overall, though, the stakes are high throughout, there are some great scenes with the Daleks and the Cybermen, and as finales go, Doomsday‘s ‘companion departure’ scene is both brutal and beautiful at once. Highlights of this episode are definitely the brief but intense battles between the various factions at play in the story, and the reveal of the Genesis Ark as a dimensionally transcendental prison that spews millions of Daleks across the nation definitely stands as one of the greatest Dalek moments of all time.

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4 – The Big Bang

The first finale of Steven Moffat’s run as showrunner gave the fanbase an insight into how his methods of conclude a series vastly differed from that of Russell T. Davies – who preferred to conclude his seasons with a bombastic action-packed finale – in that The Big Bang is a far more low-key and personal episode that any NuWho finale we had seen prior. In sharp contrast with the armies of Daleks, Toclafane and Cybermen we had seen in Russell’s tenure, this episode contains only one Dalek, and a classic runaround in a deserted museum that just so happens to be on the cusp of the end of the universe. The relationship between River and the Doctor is explored a little more (without giving too much away) and Rory gets to stay as an Auton for a day, giving him an awesome character-defining moment as he saves Amy and Amelia from the Stone Dalek with his hand-blaster. In keeping with the theme of the universe collapsing in on itself, The Bing Bang has some quite spooky moments in it to, and some that leave an eerie feeling that something is wrong – particularly the distinctive “You know there’s no such thing as stars”. This finale ties the arc of Series 5 together wonderfully, and the inclusion of the scene in which the Doctor speaks to Amy on the Byzantium (that had appeared in the episode Flesh and Stone, albeit out of context) proves that Moffat does understand the concept of a flowchart of events, who would have thought?

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3 – Death In Heaven

As far as episodes ending on both a reveal and a cliffhangar are concerned, few beat the conclusion to the Series 8 penultimate episode, Dark Water. Thankfully, the finale Death In Heaven follows up on the fantastic reveal that Missy is the Master with an action-packed finale that would have brought a tear to Russell’s eye. Moffat proves he can write a wonderful Doctor-Master dynamic as Twelve and Missy work wonderfully together, and this episode also provides a satisfying conclusion to the ‘Welcome to Heaven’ arc that had permeated throughout the series. Not only that, but the episode actually follows through with the death of Danny Pink in the previous episode, going so far as to convert him into a Cyberman and providing some really heavy-hitting emotional moments as he battles with his intense shock and horror of being dead while Clara desperately tries to save him. This episode proved quite controversial at the time due to the dark tone and horror themes threaded throughout, but in hindsight this only adds to the episode’s shock factor and emotional weight. Overall, Death In Heaven showcases some of the best that the Moffat era has to offer, and is certainly in the top 3 finales of NuWho.

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2 – The Parting of the Ways

The original NuWho finale, The Parting of the Ways established several important factors that would become staples of most NuWho finales in the future, and yet it still ranks higher than its immediate successors simply because of the masterful ways in which it depicts the final moments of the Ninth Doctor’s life. The final battle in the Game Station remains one of the best plot devices for a finale of all time – each scene builds the tension higher and higher as the Dalek army slowly crushes all resistance and closes in on the Doctor as he is forced to make some heartbreaking choices to save both the Earth and his companion Rose. One of the highlights of this episode is the Emperor Dalek, now completely insane and convinced that he is a God, as he rants and raves with his deep, guttural take on the standard Dalek voice (that makes it clear Nicholas Briggs had a blast recording), gloating at the horrendous acts he has committed. Christopher Eccleston’s time as the Doctor was short-lived but he manages to leave his mark on the show’s history here more than anywhere, as his defining character moment at the climax of the episode proves just how much the Doctor has learned since the Time War and shows that he is no longer the vicious warrior that the Time War forced him to become. Any doubt that the public had about a new series of Doctor Who were swept away once and for all after The Parting of the Ways, and Tennant’s cheeky grin as the closing theme’s howls drew the episode to a close left audiences wanting more. So the question remains – what NuWho finale could beat this?

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1 – The Doctor Falls

From the first NuWho finale to the most recent, the obvious choice for number one is The Doctor Falls. Jam-packed with just the right amounts of action, heart, fanservice, emotion, terror and hope, this finale had a tough job following on from the equally legendary World Enough and Time, and yet The Doctor Falls met expectations (and in some ways surpassed them) giving fans a finale that helped catapult Series 10 to the top of many ‘Best Series’ lists. For a start, this episode is the first televised Multi-Master story,  and although Big Finish had done a Multi-Master audio in 2016, the chemistry between Simm and Gomez gives this story the edge – the entire arc of Missy’s story as well as the Master’s arc in NuWho in general culminates in this episode, and it does not disappoint. Secondly, this episode is perhaps one of the most emotional yet – everything from Missy’s demise, Nardole’s departure, the Twelfth Doctor’s death and, of course, the aftereffects of Bill’s traumatic Cyber-conversion in the previous episode all coalesce to make this finale arguably the most heavy-hitting. The only factor in The Doctor Falls that brings it down is Heather’s seemingly random appearance at the end – many fans have compared Bill’s ultimate fate with that of Clara’s from Hell Bent, and although the circumstances are similar, Bill’s situation was set up in advance and seems far more warranted, as Bill was definitely a more likeable character and deserved a happy ending, at least in my opinion. The highlight of the episode, by far, is Capaldi’s speech on kindness – not only does this speech conclude his arc as the Doctor as he finally understands what kind of man he is and what his place in the universe is far, but it also links this finale all the way back to The Parting of the Ways whilst also defining the character of the Doctor overall in an impactful speech that will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest Doctor Who moments of all time. Ultimately, The Doctor Falls concluded Series 10 on a high note, proving that Moffat can write a consistent two-part finale once again, has some of the best performances in Doctor Who, and delivers the fantastic finale that Series 10 deserved.

So that concludes our list ranking the NuWho finales. Do you agree with this list? What was your favourite NuWho finale? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and if you enjoyed be sure to leave a like, or follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!

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How to Fix – Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises, in this case I will be focusing on a specific New Series Dalek two-parter in a similar fashion to my previous installment. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

The divisive Series 3 two-parter Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks took some truly great sci-fi concepts and executed them in the style of a B-Movie. The episode is infamous for several reasons – the song-and-dance routine, the strangely phallic face of the Human-Dalek Hybrid, and the premature destruction of three-quarters of the Cult of Skaro. Considering that their last appearance had been in Series 2’s Doomsday, an episode that was not only hard-hitting emotionally but also featured the first instance of individual Daleks escaping at the end, presumably to get revenge on the Doctor at a later date. Overall, Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks had a lot to live up to and, despite its potential, it just didn’t stand up to previous Dalek stories in the revival. So, to begin:

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Do more with the concept of the ‘Cult of Skaro’, and the character of Dalek Sec

By far the most interesting aspect of this two-parter is the individual Daleks themselves, and tragically the episode does little to capitalize on their uniqueness as characters. The concept of having a secret order of specific Daleks that have the adaptability and intelligence to scheme beyond the capacity of an ordinary Dalek is interesting enough, but to have this small number of Daleks used as antagonists throughout multiple seasons is an even more interesting idea. For one, it would eliminate the problem that the early NuWho series’ had with Daleks apparently finding more and more inconceivable ways of surviving the Time War, as having a tiny number of survivors reappear as recurring villains is better than having to come up with a different excuse as to why Daleks are around each series. Unfortunately, Evolution of the Daleks in particular does away with this concept a little too early, killing three out of the four Cult members in their second story.

Admittedly, the character arc for Dalek Sec in this story is spectacular, and the execution is fairly effective as well (apart from the phallic protrusions on the Hybrid’s chin, but the less said about that the better). Having Sec sacrifice himself at the end to save the Doctor illustrates just how far a bit of Human DNA can go in rehabilitating a Dalek, even one as committed to the cause as Sec, and his hybridization and subsequent struggle with gaining human emotions is both an interesting concept for a Dalek story and a great spanner to throw into the works of the hierarchy of the Cult. The problem is that, upon killing Sec, Evolution of the Daleks disposes of Daleks Thay and Jast as well, in a pointless firefight that ultimately solves nothing, when realistically these two Daleks should have escaped with Dalek Caan as their characters had barely been developed when they were unceremoniously killed off.

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Do more with the supporting characters

Although Daleks in Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks constantly reminds the audience that it is set in New York, with the presence of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Hooverville serving to ground the audience in both the location and the time period, unfortunately the supporting cast of this episode are given strangely little to do in the grand scheme of things. Ultimately, the only real purpose that Martha, Tallulah, Lazlo and Frank serve in the final episode is discovering the the Daleks have attached Dalekanium to the Empire State Building, and this discovery is ultimately pointless as the Doctor fails to remove it in time anyway. Daleks In Manhattan manages to give its supporting cast a little more to do, but overall following the death of Solomon the Doctor assumes all the main narrative roles in this story, which is odd considering usually Dalek stories rely primarily on the companion to figure things out whilst the Doctor strikes up an ideological debate with his foes.

Unfortunately, at the crucial point at which this might have been useful, the Doctor totally fails to engage with the potential of the Dalek Sec Hybrid. It should be noted that, upon the death of the Hybrid, it is truly unclear whether or not the Doctor actually trusted him at all – he does refer to Sec as ‘the cleverest Dalek ever’, but in typical fashion the Tenth Doctor seems to be totally indifferent to the destruction of this opportunity to recreate the Dalek race from the ground up, instead being seemingly more focused on berating the Daleks for their lack of foresight rather than genuinely grieving the reformed Sec.

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Rework the Dalek’s plan so that it makes sense

Clearly whoever scripted this episode had no idea how genetics actually work, or how DNA and life relate to each other in the real world. As many fans will already know, Doctor Who has always been about suspending disbelief for the sake of narrative enjoyment, but in the case of Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks this actually hurts the story as the suspension of disbelief is simply unnecessary. The Daleks would surely have the know-how  to create Human-Dalek hybrids even with primitive technology, but the logic of ’emptying’ human bodies to be ‘filled’ with Dalek DNA is about the stupidest way of presenting this concept. Why not just have the Daleks growing the new Hybrid soldiers in tanks, and requiring the lightning strike to bring them to life? Or, heck, just have the lightning strike be there to power their Emergency Temporal Shift to escape to the future – the Daleks could have just revisited the concept of Robomen and indoctrinated Humans into doing their bidding rather than using the seemingly redundant Pig Slaves.

Overall, most of what makes Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks is the mishandling of the Daleks themselves as the main villain – it would be easy to tweak this story to save the Cult of Skaro storyline whilst still keeping its emotional impact, and circumventing some of the stranger concepts in favor of more familiar Dalek concepts would make this story more popular with Dalek fans.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix Daleks In Manhattan and Evolution of the Daleks. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like and you can follow Sacred Icon either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!

 

Doctor Who – Summing up the Moffat Era, or ‘The Tale of Two Moffats’

What is the scariest thing ever imaginable to a Doctor Who fan? A Dalek? A Weeping Angel? The possibility of a second 15-year-long hiatus? Perhaps any or all of these could be considered, but the undoubted victor is the thought that, if one Moffat wasn’t enough, there might actually be two Moffats, and when one of the Moffat’s tenure as showrunner comes to an end, the second Moffat moves in to take his place. Those who reacted to that statement with the appropriate cold dread need not worry, however, as this process has already occurred, we just didn’t realise it at the time…

As Summer 2018 begins to show itself, it really does seem as though a new era is dawning for Doctor Who fans, who recently witnessed the departure of one of the longest running (and most controversial) showrunners in the history of the series. Steven Moffat, the man who at the time of his announcement as showrunner seemed to be the perfect choice to take on the responsibility, has now proven after 8 years at the helm of one of the most well-known and beloved franchises in history that regardless of raw talent, budget, direction or sociopolitical context, the ultimate key to maintaining a reputation is consistency. Most of the British public first heard of Steven Moffat following his string of fantastic episodes throughout the Russell T. Davies era, namely The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead, and it was because of the consistent quality, scare-factor and thought-provoking premises of his episodes that Steven Moffat earned the reputation for one of the greatest writers that the show had seen, and perhaps even of all time. But what happened during his tenure as showrunner that seems to have split a fanbase, that already had lasting divides, into the camps of ‘pro-Moffat’ and ‘anti-Moffat’?

The answer is, of course, not exactly clear. From a basic perspective, the tone of Moffat’s era differed drastically from that of Russell’s, in that whilst Russell focused on grand epic battles, emotional drama and the impact of the Time War on the Doctor, Moffat shifted the focus dramatically onto a much smaller-scale side to the Doctor’s life – the domestic life that he elects to pursue with Amy, Rory and River Song, whilst also changing the way the show itself presented the Doctor – rather than having the idea of the Doctor as a wanderer who amassed power through influence that Russel went with, Moffat instead constructed the idea of the ‘fairy-tale’ Doctor, a mad magician who saves the day in the most whimsical way possible. This encapsulates the earliest divide in the NuWho fanbase, as many fans who were used to Russell’s incarnation of the show lost interest as Matt Smith’s era reached its sixth or seventh series because the show simply wasn’t the same anymore. From a modern point of view, this split is easily spun to signify the ‘death of Doctor Who’ – naysayers at the time predicted that the show would never reach its fiftieth anniversary – but as most Doctor Who fans know by now, Russell’s era was just an era. It was a popular era, no doubts there, but as with all the best eras of Doctor Who, it had to end eventually. Unfortunately, many fans who were dissatisfied with Moffat and had only watched NuWho up until this point decided that Doctor Who would never be the same again, and so jumped ship.

However, this only explains how the ‘anti-Moffat’ camp first came to be, and there is certainly a lot more to the school of Moffat criticism than just preferring Russell’s era. It must also be pointed out that, amongst a sea of Moffat critics in the early 2010s, there were a vocal minority who believed that the show was better off without Russell and that although Moffat hadn’t exactly delivered a batch of 13 episodes that could all rival something like The Girl in the Fireplace in quality, Series 5 was still a very strong series. Even today, Series 5 is highly regarded as one of the best outings of NuWho, which is made all the more interesting when one factors in the idea that Series 5 is one of the few NuWho series that does not rely on any pre-existing marketable material – aside from one episode with the Daleks and a cameo of some old monsters in the finale, Series 5’s series arc revolved around something entirely original, something that Russell had never even attempted. In a similar manner to the change in focus, Moffat also seemed to change how the show treated its recurring elements – rather than relying on the Daleks for finale-filler like Russell did, Moffat instead put faith in his own ideas. Things like River Song and The Silence became much more prominent in the early years of Moffat’s era whereas races like the Daleks and the Cybermen barely got a look in. This would seemingly mark the next step in evolution for ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ Moffat factions – the idea that the show needs to rely on the Daleks and Cybermen is ultimately self destructive, and yet fanboys like myself simply cannot bear to see a series of Doctor Who without them, and thanks to a series of lacklustre cameos and the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks many Dalek fans opinion of Moffat turned sour.

Of course, there are many more reasons why the fanbase split on Moffat, and even more explanations as to why his writing quality appeared to decline between Series 6 and 7 – blame is often put on the attention dedicated to Sherlock, the poor characterisation of new companion Clara Oswald as well as a general lack of direction in the Silence/River Song story arc. But following the success of the 50th Anniversary Special and the regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi in 2013, hindsight tells us that the old Moffat must have given up and walked out, with the fresh second Moffat ready and waiting to take over the show and make it his own, because when Doctor Who came back in 2014 it was totally different from anything NuWho had seen before, and the changes wouldn’t stop there. Capaldi’s first series was still very much a Moffat creation – it contains his narrative mannerisms, his method of misdirection when it comes to revealing crucial plot points, and his… ‘unique’ way of writing dialogue between men and women. But the focus of the show shifted again, and for many it seemed to be shifting back to the same things that Russell had focused on. Whilst Matt Smith’s era practically ignored the Daleks, Capaldi faced them in his second episode that drew heavy inspiration from the first Dalek episode of Russell’s era. Cybermen appeared in the finale of Series 8, this time as a worldwide and present threat rather than as a babysitter to James Corden’s baby or as a fairground attraction as they had been in Matt Smith’s era. And not only that, but Capaldi’s era saw the return of two essential classic series villains who had featured in Russell’s era – the Master, this time in the form of Missy, and Davros. Capaldi’s era still had lingering elements of the ‘fairytale’ interpretation of the Doctor from Matt Smith’s era, but the universe it presented dropped any pretence of the whimsical feel of Moffat’s tenure that we had seen so far and instead seemed to ‘reboot’ the modern Doctor Who universe, bringing it more in line with what Russell constructed throughout his tenure and allowing fans who disliked Matt Smith or his era to make a ‘clean break’ and pick the show back up.

Ultimately, this is where the notion of the ‘two Moffats’ comes from – on the one hand you have Matt Smith Moffat, whose era is seemingly self-contained, has little impact from either the classic series or Russell’s NuWho, aside from a handful of obvious examples, such as the cameo appearance of an Ood and the Russell era control room in The Doctor’s Wife, a mention of the battle to save reality from Journey’s End in Victory of the Daleks and the appearance of an Ice Warrior in Cold War, to name a few. Generally, however, Matt Smith’s era relied on its own internal logic, its own original villains and its own original characters to get by, almost like a show within a show. On the other hand, Peter Capaldi Moffat came along after Smith’s era was done and decided that Doctor Who needed to wake up and resume many of the ongoing plot threads that had been on hold during the Smith era – namely, the Doctor’s relationship with the Daleks and Davros, the Doctor/Master friendship/rivalry, the impact of the return of Rassilon and the fate of Gallifrey. Capaldi’s era also sees many reappearances from races or characters in the show’s history that serve as more than just cameos – the Mondasian Cybermen and John Simm’s Master in the Series 10 finale being the most significant. But what can be gleaned from all of this? It is hard to compare the two Moffats, since both have caused their fair share of controversy within the show’s fanbase, and ultimately the decision comes down to personal preference between Matt Smith’s era and Peter Capaldi’s. But next time the inevitable debate over ‘who is better: Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’ pops up, remember that the actual debate should be ‘who is better: Steven Moffat (2010-2013) or Steven Moffat (2014-2017)’

And that concludes the terrifying tale of the Two Moffats. I hope you enjoyed, if you did be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Be sure to check out the ‘Read More’ section below, and thanks for reading!

 

 

How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact

Welcome to the next article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

Of all the Star Trek: The Next Generation films, First Contact is definitely the least terrible, objectively speaking. In many ways, it could actually be considered one of the better Star Trek movies, but there are just a few things about the film that definitely hold it back, not least the fact that it shifted the tone and focus of Star Trek ever closer to action and further from its lore-heavy sci-fi roots. With that said, here are just a few ways in which First Contact could be improved. To start:

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The film should have been set on the Enterprise-D

This one is early on the list because it isn’t really fair to First Contact to criticise it on this point, since it was the previous film (the godawful Generations) that committed the ultimate crime of destroying the Enteprise-D in the stupidest way possible. Nonetheless, the impact of First Contact is lessened thanks to the Enterprise-D’s conspicuous absence, because as far as the audience is concerned this film could have taken place on any random Federation ship and it wouldn’t have made a difference. We don’t know the Enterprise-E well enough to care about it being assimilated by the Borg, which is a huge part of what drives the narrative of the film. After all, the majority of Picard’s conflict throughout the movie is related to his unwillingness to destroy the Enterprise to stop the Borg, and this would have connected with the audience if the ship he was talking about was the vessel we had come to know and love throughout the show rather than a recent replacement that we had barely seen yet.

Imagine an alternate version of this film in which it was the Enterprise-D that was being attacked and not the E. It would have been more poignant to see the D’s engine room infested with Borg, or to have the argument between Picard and Worf happen on a damaged version of the D’s bridge instead of the bland set they cobbled together for the E. And if it really was the intention of the writers to destroy the D, it should have been done here rather than in Generations, as sacrificing the Enterprise-D to destroy the Botg Queen would have been a much better sendoff for the ship than having it crash after being attacked by a ship less than a tenth of its size.

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Expand on the character of the Borg Queen, or at least explain what she is

Many cite First Contact as the beginning of the end for the Borg, since it was just after this film that the threat of their constant attempts to assimilate Starfleet began to wane. This was made all the worse by their constant overuse in Voyager, but that can be a topic for another day. What threw the Borg ‘off-track’, so to speak, was the introduction of the Borg Queen without any attempt to explain why she actually exists in the first place. The film essentially turns everything we already understood about the Borg on its head, without giving any satisfying reason as to why, simply to introduce a fairly uninspired villain with confusing motives.

The Borg are a hive-mind, and by definition have no leader, and yet the writers of First Contact obviously decided that the Borg were a hive in the literal sense, as in a hive of bees, and by that logic they needed a Queen. In theory, this could work – the Borg might need one particular individual drone to store command data, or provide an imaginative insight into how the Borg should expand, or even as a variant of ‘Locutus’ that is required to communicate with other races. What we got in First Contact was a Queen who seemed totally detached from the Borg, almost as if she was some other entity that had taken control of them, and no concrete explanation as to why the Borg even need a Queen. Data himself expresses his confusion over the concept, but the Queen just brushes it off and quickly moves on. In order for this antagonist to work, it must first be explained what her motives are and why she exists in the first place.

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Make Picard more like Picard

Since this was a movie and not an episode on a TV show, Picard seemed to suddenly develop a Rambo complex in this film. He brutally murders a fellow Starfleet officer in cold blood to prevent him from becoming a Borg drone, despite the fact that he himself was once assimilated and was later rescued and returned to normal. He screams like a maniac when firing a machine gun at the Borg (which definitely shouldn’t affect them since earlier in the film Data is shot with a machine gun and, strangely, suffers no damage whatsoever) and then later screams the infamous ‘NOOOOO’ while smashing up his office. And, to top it all off, at the end of the film he just snaps the Borg Queen’s neck, despite the fact that she had been beaten and was essentially a harmless spinal column writhing around on the floor.

So what should he have been like? Well, more like how he was in the TV show. He shouldn’t have been driven by hate of the Borg or a desire for revenge, because that is totally outside of what we have come to expect from his character. In fact, the entire ‘Picard has Borg PTSD’ was invented entirely for this movie – even after he was assimilated Picard fought the Borg many times, and even had a chance to totally destroy them, and yet he showed none of these feelings of anger that have suddenly cropped up for no explainable reason. If anything, it would have been far more interesting to see a character like Data go through this arc, since his newfound emotions are still somewhat unstable and he clearly finds the idea of the Borg disgusting as they want to eradicate humanity, the very thing that he looks up to.

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Remove the Earth sub-plot

Admit it, nobody watches this film for Zefram Cochrane. The Earth subplot is cheesey, makes no sense in terms of the temporal Prime Directive and only serves to create a cliche tension-built climax at the end, when it looks like the Borg are about to destroy human history by ensuring they never discover Warp Travel. Admittedly, the character of Lily is an interesting inclusion, and having someone with no knowledge of starships, Borg, the Federation or phasers bumbling around on a ship in the middle of a Borg attack seems like something that The Next Generation would have done on the show. However, Lily could have ended up on the ship for any number of reasons, and then dropped off on Earth at the end while promising to tell no-one of what she saw, which would have spared the audience scenes with awful dancing, dated music, cringe-inducing dialogue and Deanna Troi getting drunk.

Alternatively, those scenes could be replaced with more of the action that is happening on the Enterprise, which is what people are actually watching the film for. If the subplot with the Phoenix has to be a focus, then perhaps Lily could be written as a character who is somehow crucial to the launch, and it is imperative that the crew get her back to Earth unharmed before the launch is scheduled to occur.

In fairness, First Contact is the best of the TNG movies, and it certainly defeats its predecessor hands down. But with just a few tweaks, it could have been one of the best Star Trek movies of all time. If you enjoyed, you can follow us either here or on Facebook and be sure to leave a like. Thanks for reading!

Star Wars – 5 Best and 5 Worst Changes to the Original Trilogy

An interesting quirk that Star Wars fans have to deal with in the re-releases of the Original Star Wars Trilogy is that, since the original film was released on VHS for the first time in 1985, George Lucas has been tweaking his creations by implementing changes to all aspects of the film – effects, dialogue, sometimes entire characters and scenes have been removed, added or altered in all three original films and even some of the prequels. The topic of the re-release changes has created some debate in the fandom, with some arguing that the changes improve the films and others preferring the original releases. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was a version of the original Star Wars film out there, but since the changes began with the original release, it is now impossible to watch the film in its original state, regardless of whether you like the changes or not. With that in mind, here is my list of the 5 Best and 5 Worst changes to the beloved series.

Best Changes:

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5 – Improved Effects

This is an obvious choice, but the re-releases do improve most of the effects in the film, with just a few exceptions. One might argue that the film’s original effects were part of what made it so good – after all, at the time of release the visuals were one of the major selling points of Star Wars. But most fans agree that there’s nothing wrong with bringing the original films up-to-date with modern special effects, and that certainly shows when you compare scenes like the Battle of Yavin where the older effects do somewhat break immersion, particularly if you are used to the newer releases. The improved laser blasts and lightsaber effects make the action scenes appear less scratchy, and improve continuity between this trilogy and the ones that come before and after it in the timeline. It would certainly be

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4 – Oola

It’s strange to consider when you watch it now, but in the original cut of Return of the Jedi Oola’s death scene was much more brief – she simply falls down the trap door into the Rancor pit in Jabba’s Palace, and the Rancor reveal is saved for later. Amazingly, the actress who played Oola filmed the extended death scene over a decade after first appearing in Jedi, with no difference to the visuals whatsoever. The Rancor isn’t revealed completely, meaning that the impact of its later appearance isn’t spoiled, but it does create a menacing scene showing more of the mercilessness of Jabba’s henchmen. Interestingly, Oola was allegedly supposed to have a much larger role in the film, but due to changes in the script her role was drastically reduced, so if anything this change simply provides a bit more screen-time for a fan-favourite character.

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3 – Victory Celebration

This one might be controversial, but the change to the music at the end of Return of the Jedi is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions George Lucas ever made. The original song that played during the celebrations on Endor was ‘Yub Nub’, a nonsensical and comically puerile ditty that doesn’t do the finale justice, but the replacement, John Williams’ aptly-titled ‘Victory Celebration’, seems a much more fitting tune to end the original trilogy. For comparison, one needs only to look at the ending of A New Hope – the tune used there fits the tone and gravitas of the scene, and ‘Yub Nub’ simply does not. Whilst it is a fan-favourite, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for what is to some the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. But, then again, the dancing doesn’t sync up with the new tune as well.

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2 – The Real Palpatine

As important as  it is to remember Marjorie Eaton, the original actress who portrayed the Emperor – and yes, I said ‘actress’, as Clive Revill was merely dubbed over her performance – for the sake of continuity her original scenes as the Emperor no longer work. In heavy makeup with digitally inserted chimpanzee eyes, the 78 year old effectively filled in for the Emperor in the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back but, after Ian McDiarmid was cast as Palpatine for Return of the Jedi and then again in the prequels, it only makes sense to retroactively insert him into Empire as well. Admittedly, as many have stated before, the original Emperor does appear more visually intimidating, with some criticizing the newer editions for making the Emperor look outright bored as he calmly drops the bombshell onto Vader that Luke is Anakin’s son, and sort of ruins the idea that Vader came to that conclusion himself. Nonetheless, A+ for effort.

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1 – Young Anakin

Okay, before I even explain the details of this change, I would like to get one thing out of the way first: I understand why people hate this change. In fact, for many years I too cringed in resentment at the awkward, out-of-place looking Hayden Christensen who had been clumsily imposed over the charming, warm smile of Sebastian Shaw that was in the original cut of Return of the Jedi. Upon reflection, however, I have also conceded that I understand why this change was made, and in many ways it is one of the most important changes to the Star Wars films because it establishes something interesting about the Force and about the character of Darth Vader that was only hinted at in the original films. By showing Anakin’s ghost as he looked in his youth, it firmly establishes the idea that the dark side corrupted and twisted Anakin to such an extent that by the time he had been burned alive on Mustafar he wasn’t even the same man anymore. Anakin being burned and chopped up and turned into a Cyberman is just a formality, Vader consumed him during the events of Revenge of the Sith meaning that, in returning to his former self in death, Anakin lives on through the Force in the way that he was before his turn. This brings a whole weight of validation onto the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi who, when you consider how he goes about relating the events of the prequels to Luke, comes across as a manipulative and downright inconsiderate arse-hole who attempts to warp Luke’s perception of reality to fit his worldview. If, however, we accept that the redeemed Anakin Skywalker appears to Luke in the form of his younger self, it not only metaphorically shows that the corruption of Vader has fallen away to reveal the man he once was, but it also shows that the nature of the Force itself backs Obi-Wan’s claim that Vader and Anakin are separate entities, and that is arguably far more important to the story than just seeing Vader as he would have looked if he hadn’t turned evil. From a technical standpoint, the change itself needs work (mostly to make Hayden look less creepy for no reason) but ultimately I believe it adds to the depth of the lore of the Force and I will gladly agree to disagree with anyone who says otherwise.

But now, let’s take a look at some of the really bad changes to the Star Wars films…

Worst Changes:

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5 – Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope

Although some like the inclusion of the unused ‘Jabba’ scene from A New Hope that digitally replaces the man who was originally going to be ‘Jabba’ with the slimy slug-like Hutt that we all know him as today, this change is fundamentally awful for a number of reasons. For one, when it was originally included in the 1997 re-release of A New Hope, the CGI Jabba looked absolutely horrendous – it would be hard to distinguish between it and the Globgogabgalab if the latter didn’t periodically break into song. In fact, if my previous list of terrible CGI characters had included a section on the original trilogy, this Jabba would have topped the list. Thankfully the 2004 re-release of A New Hope changed Jabba into something that looked a little bit more like what we remember from Return of the Jedi but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this scene is even necessary in the first place – for one, it spoils the reveal of Jabba from Jedi, and it doesn’t establish anything that we didn’t know from the previous Cantina scene. To add insult to injury, Han steps on Jabba’s tail, something he would probably have been killed for if this was the real Jabba instead of a CGI imposter.

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4 – Vader’s ‘Nooooo’

This change is a perfect example of how altering the tiniest detail can have a whole lot of impact. Adding in Vader screaming ‘No’ Revenge of the Sith-style into the climax of Return of the Jedi essentially threw any hope of subtlety in the scene out of the window, with the Emperor cackling maniacally like the pantomime villain that he is in Jedi. After all, wouldn’t the Emperor hear him say it and blast him with lightning instead? The point of his betrayal originally was that it was totally unexpected – the Emperor never had a chance to stop Vader by the time he had been lifted into the air and hurled over the balcony to plummet to his death, but now it just makes Palpatine look like an idiot. Speaking of treating people like idiots, surely the audience can basically figure out by his body language and actions that Vader is saving Luke without a clear statement from him? But according to Lucas, everything needs to be spelled out for us, it’s not like we’ve had over 30 years to figure out what Vader must have been thinking during the final scene.

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3 – CGI creatures everywhere

It’s almost comical when watching it back, but the iconic ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ scene in A New Hope now begins with a really close up shot of a reptilian creature lumbering in the way of the camera, totally blocking the shot and obscuring all of the main characters for seemingly no reason whatsoever. But that’s not the only creature that was added in to the original trilogy, there are plenty – a Dug (one of Sebulba’s species, for anyone who wanted a grim reminder of The Phantom Menace) can now be seen in Jabba’s palace, the Wampa now gets a full reveal (spoiling the ambiguity of the creature) and that dance number in Return of the Jedi makes me want to burn everything in my house that links me to Star Wars. Seriously, it’s that bad. Heck, they may as well go and retroactively add Porgs into the films, scurrying around on the Millennium Falcon or screeching over the dialogue in Empire. In fact, it’s not just the addition of creatures that make this so bad – Lucas couldn’t even digitally insert a rock in front of R2-D2 whilst he hides from the Tusken Raiders without having it disappear between shots, and the gap when it is there be too small for R2-D2 to even fit through. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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2 – Greedo Shooting First

It may surprise some that this isn’t number one, because it has become the most infamous change to the Star Wars films with, the motto ‘Han Shot First’ seemingly encompassing the Star Wars fandom’s rejection of the majority of George Lucas’ changes to the films. After all, Greedo shooting first not only detracts from the firm establishment of Han Solo as a no-nonsense, quick-triggered badass, but it also devalues him as a character – what kind of bounty hunter can fire at that close a range whilst sitting down and having a totally clear shot and yet still miss? Is this another attempt by Lucas to add out-of-place slapstick humour to Star Wars that absolutely fails at every level? Ignoring the neck-breaking head motion that Han has been edited to perform in newer releases with this edit, the change just doesn’t look right. Everything happens so fast that it’s impossible to tell why Lucas felt this was necessary, aside from a vague excuse that ‘good guys don’t shoot people’. Well George, tell that to the dozens of Stormtroopers who are dispatched by Han throughout the movies, they’re people too.

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1 – Boba Fett’s voice

This is the change that I take most issue with, regardless of the whole ‘who shot first’ fiasco. In fairness, this change was obviously made with continuity in mind, rather than just a random desire to pollute the frame with more random CGI creations like the Stormtroopers on the Death Star or the Max Reebo band – for those not aware, Boba Fett is revealed to be a clone of Jango Fett who features in Attack of the Clones. Obviously by replacing James Wingreen’s voice from the original cut of Empire with the voice of Temura Morrison, who played Jango, Lucas was bridging the gap between Clones and Empire and admittedly, this change could have been done well under different circumstances. But the fact of the matter is that Wingreen’s performance was just so much better than Morrison’s, and even if you apply the logic that Boba is a clone, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he had the exact same voice – after all, environmental factors have much more of an impact on accent than genetics, making this change ultimately pointless.

So that was my list of the Top 5 Best and Worst Changes to the Star Wars movies, I hope you enjoyed, if you did then you can always leave a like either here or on Facebook, and be sure to follow us if you want to read more content like this!

 

 

 

 

How to Fix – The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End

Welcome to the latest article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

Well, here we have an example of something that certainly isn’t broken… or is it? For years I held both The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End in quite high regard as far as Doctor Who episodes go, and it had all the essential elements that my teenage self looked for a great Doctor Who story – returning characters, planetary invasion, death, Daleks – everything you could possibly ask for. Upon more recent reflection, however, it occurs to me that this two-parter, or more specifically the second part of this two-parter, isn’t all that it was cracked up to be. After showing this episode to some friends who had never really seen much Doctor Who before (if at all) I got a more objective view on why this episode doesn’t really hold up, and so I now present my latest ‘How to Fix’, this time focusing on the subject of David Tennant’s last series finale (technically): The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. And to start with, arguably the easiest point to make:

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Keep The Stolen Earth basically the same

Okay, so this is cheating a bit. When I say basically the same, I mean keep the fundamentals of the plot intact, because honestly The Stolen Earth is pretty fantastic, its just its successor that lets it down. Aside from some more specific details regarding Martha, which we will get to later, this episode does a great job of building up the tension of an imminent Dalek invasion that the Doctor is not there to prevent or even help mitigate. We get a very real idea of how threatening the Daleks can be as they bomb Manhatten, attack major military bases to exterminate anyone who might stand against them, critically damage the Valiant and assassinate the US President. Whilst my instinct is to always suggest that more screen time be dedicated to the Daleks causing havoc on-screen, I can begrudgingly accept that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the producers of The Stolen Earth did a great job with the budget. Likewise, all of the setup for the finale with all the NuWho companions (and Sarah Jane) teaming up is brilliant, and Harriet Jones’ death was done with dignity and purpose. Essentially, the only thing that should be changed about The Stolen Earth relates to more pressing points that I will get to later, so to move swiftly on:

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Expand Martha’s Role, and make her more in-character

The greatest crime Russell T. Davies ever committed was writing the fantastic character that is Martha Jones and then wasting her on an arc that essentially amounted to her being the ‘rebound companion’ from Rose. My thoughts on both Rose and the Tenth Doctor have already been made clear, and to reiterate once again, I do not hate the Tenth Doctor. I simply find it baffling that people will regard him as their favourite without accounting for some of the more questionable actions he takes during his tenure. Similarly, I find some of Russell’s executive decisions to be equally as baffling – he clearly understood the misstep in writing Martha out of the show so quickly, and then found no less than three ways to bring her back – first as a stand-in for a generic UNIT commander in The Sontaran Stratagem, then later in the same series for this two-parter, and finally The End of Time. Yet in none of these sheepish reappearances does Martha live up to her potential, as she seems to be a completely different person than who she was in Series 3.

Admittedly, a lot has happened for Martha in this time – she had to spend a year on a devastated Earth, battling the various forces that the Master set against her during his time as ruler of Earth (which, although was later undone, the memories of which are still retained in her mind). Also, since she now works for UNIT, it is possible that more militaristic training his taken precedent over the life lessons that she gleaned from her time in the TARDIS, but still – the idea that Martha Jones would intentionally attempt to destroy Earth in a mass-genocidal nuclear apocalypse is not only outrageously stupid but also a monumental insult to her character. Instead of concocting the idea of a secret UNIT plan to destroy Earth, Russell should have had Martha focused on finding and uniting all of the Doctor’s companions scattered across Earth, since she was a member of UNIT and the person in the best position to track them down. Instead this role goes to Harriet Jones, and as I said previously, she is well used in this episode – but rather than transferring the ability to locate the Doctor’s friends to Torchwood (an organisation buried underground in South Wales) why not give it to UNIT? That way Martha could have been the one to use the teleportation harness to gather together everyone who could lend a hand, rather than expecting them all to somehow make their own way to the Dalek Mothership. On that note:

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Make the Daleks a consistent threat

This is always an issue with Doctor Who, but it is plainly obvious here – sometimes the Daleks appear in an episode as a major threat, and in others they appear as laughable imbeciles. Russell achieves the extraordinary with this two-parter in that he manages to make the Daleks shift from the latter to the former in the space of one story – in The Stolen Earth, the Daleks appear as an unstoppable intergalactic power, capturing and invading  planets and bombing entire cities into submission. By Journey’s End, however, they are reduced to fodder, and are all destroyed in one of Russell’s most unwarranted and outlandish deus ex machinas yet. So what happened?

As usual, it comes down to focus – Journey’s End spends far too much time on exposition and not a lot on action, so the end product is anticlimactic. It seems laughable now that Russell wrote this entire episode in order to get the companions all together in one room, but didn’t write the episode with enough gravitas to give any of them anything to do, so despite all the wild and increasingly nonsensical plans that Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha and Donna all come up with to stop the Daleks, they all end up just sitting in those ‘ray shields’ from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Surely a better idea would be to have the Daleks actually doing something that required the companions to be out fighting them, allowing the Doctor and Davros to have their dialogue in a setting that was more suitable? Ironically a Davros episode that handles this much better is Series 9’s The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar, as whilst the Doctor and Davros have their obligatory hearts-to-heart, Missy and Clara are out fighting Daleks. But I digress…

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Have at least one Classic Who companion return, even just as a cameo

Whilst this isn’t essential to fixing this episode, I thought I might as well include it since it always bothered me. If Harriet Jones’ subwave network was designed to seek out anyone and everyone who could help the Doctor, why did it only end up contacting companions who had appeared in previous David Tennant stories? Again, it all comes down to pacing and focus – the episode is already cluttered enough as it is, and surely shoehorning in a classic companion would just ruin the pacing. But the episode manages to incorporate pointless scenes of Martha’s mother who, in this ‘fixed’ version of events, wouldn’t be necessary, so perhaps a short cameo from Sophie Aldred or Kate Manning wouldn’t seem so bad. And for anyone who uses the argument that kids wouldn’t know who these old characters were, my rebuttal is: who cares? Nobody knows who any of the characters in anything are until they are introduced, and since this episode manages to coherently place Harriet Jones into the narrative (a character we hadn’t seen for two years at the time of broadcast) then it could have done the same for an aged Ace or Jo Grant, even if it was literally in the capacity on showing up on the screen to facilitate the delivery of a single plot point (the location of the Dalek Mothership, for example?) in a similar manner to the appearances of Harriet Jones, Sarah Jane, the Shadow Proclamation and Rose. Anyway, back to the actual plot-relevant fixes:

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Completely Change the Ending

Even aside from the ridiculous ending that essentially elevates Donna to this years ‘most important person on Doctor Who until the next most important person on Doctor Who’, the conclusion to her ‘DoctorDonna’ arc is, for lack of a better word, disturbing. And not in the way that Doctor Who is supposed to be. For one, surely the entire point of Donna as a character was for her to not end up being nothing more than a plot device? After all, Russell had attempted to subvert a lot of the pre-existing NuWho companion tropes with Donna – she made it clear early on that she didn’t want a romantic relationship with the Doctor, she reacted to situations with much more anger and ‘sass’ than previous companions had, and she actively hunted the Doctor down rather than simply being swept up in an adventure. But it seems for her sendoff Russell just couldn’t bring himself to not ruin her character, so we got the nonsensical premise that because Donna wasn’t good enough to save the day on her own, she needed the Doctor’s mind to do it for her, and as icing on the cake, the Doctor then forcibly removes himself from her brain and essentially resets her back to factory settings, removing all the character development she had had over the previous series.

The scene is undeniably tragic, and when you try not to think about the horrible implications of the Doctor’s actions, it leaves a dark and melancholy tone that really works for Doctor Who. It is how it was done that many people take issue with, to the extent that Moffat wrote not one but two subversions of this scene into his run – the first in which Clara refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her memory, instead opting for a 50/50 chance that one of them would lose their memory of the other (Spoilers: its the Doctor who ends up suffering this fate), and the second when Bill outright refuses to allow the Doctor to wipe her mind in her first episode and he eventually repents, probably after realising that wiping Donna’s mind when she clearly expressed the desire to remain how she was essentially amounted to assault. After all, she had all of the Doctor’s intelligence, and so was more capable than ever at that point to make a decision on whether or not she wanted to stay that way, regardless of what it would do to her.

So those were my thoughts on how to fix The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End. I hope you enjoyed, and if you did then be sure to leave a like either here or on Facebook, and for more content like this have a look at the Read More section down below. Thanks for reading!